An Afternoon Chat with Mayor Proto

Mayor Proto takes oath of office. (Wave photo)

George Proto is sworn in last July as Mayor of Cape Charles (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

March 30, 2014

Mayor George Proto has begun holding “office hours” twice monthly for an hour at the Cape Charles Civic Center, and last week the Wave took that opportunity for an interview. Proto holds degrees from Drexel (BS Physics) and University of Virginia (PhD Materials Science). He worked at IBM for 30 years, interacting with and managing diverse groups of people from multiple countries and continents.

“I was responsible for projects that demanded that people worked together in order to be successful.”

So, how did you come to find yourself in Cape Charles?

Well, my wife tells the story better than I can — but, briefly, I guess I would go back to 1999, and both our parents had just passed away, within a few months of each other. And we just wanted to get away, so went to Bethany Beach. We just wanted to sit in the sun, and just relax, maybe jump in the surf now and then. But it rained the entire time. The whole week.

Now my wife, who is from Milford, Delaware, still had a good friend living in Belle Haven, and since the weather was going to be so bad anyway, we drove down to the Eastern Shore to visit, and explore some. There were small towns all up and down, and I even got to see the Bridge-Tunnel for the first time (I had never been that far south on the Peninsula before).

On the way down to see the CBBT, we saw the sign for Cape Charles, so on the way back we pulled in and explored, and just fell in love with the place. We bought property, and when we retired, we moved here.

How would you rate the current status of Cape Charles?

Overall, I would say it’s in good shape. Of course, there’s much more to do. Obviously, from an economic standpoint, I would like to see more growth. The tourism — the current tourism we have I think is a good thing, but I would like to see more growth in industries that are year round. I think the yacht center is something we can look to, where the success there will create, or provide opportunities for other businesses to build up around it.

One asset that we do have in our favor is high speed Internet — did I ever tell you what I did when I worked for IBM? Well, basically whatever they told me to do (laughs) — but later on, I was working more in project management, or more problem management, where our teams were spread out all over the world. I think high speed Internet can allow that kind of collaborative work to occur here.

What we’d like to see is a little more density [year round], to help all of our businesses — but there are barriers to getting people to move here. Number one is the schools. Then there is the lack of emergency medical services. Third is the toll. Now, if we could lower the toll even more, I’m sure there are people in Virginia Beach that would move here, if we could also offer a better public school option. Like I said, I think our tourism is always going to be a big part of what we do, but in our case, it is the type of tourist that chooses to come here that differentiates us. They seem so willing to embrace us, to embrace our values.


What is your opinion of the county’s new proposed zoning ordinance?

When I first read it, the first draft, I thought that there was a lot of work to do. I really agreed with the opposition in many of the issues. I think the supervisors have been hearing what people are saying, and although I haven’t read all of it, it seems they are making changes. One of my initial reservations was over the removal of the Chesapeake Bay act from about half the county, but now they have backed away from that.  I see the need the county is trying to address, but I think they need to tread lightly, that they should really look at what impacts the changes will have, and just how it will benefit [the county].

Do you or the town have any plans to deal with county relative to the Historic Highway Overlay District?

We have contacted the county over this, and the zoning proposal has really made it hard for them to get the time to address it. We are in the process of setting a time that the county can brief us on the status of the zoning, and we may be able to talk about it then. I do think the county wants to do what it can to help Cape Charles grow and develop. What benefits the town will also benefit the county.

How do you feel about the future of Cape Charles?

I’m bullish on Cape Charles. The future — I feel really good about it. But what I think is so good, what is really our best asset, I think it’s our people, all the people that live here.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place where we have such a variety of people. A variety of talented people — the people that have lived here, have grown up here, and the people who have moved here, who have chosen to make this place their home. All of them, everyone just brings some much to the table; I really think that is what is going to make us successful.

Is your wife Nancy just as bullish on Cape Charles?

Yes, yes she is. She loves the small town environment, the small town feel. When we walk around, or look out at the beach, we, and she has said this, feel like we’re finally home.

As a citizen, I do want to thank you for your commitment to the town. The fact that you make the effort  to do this (schedule  these office hours two times a month), to give people a chance to sit down and talk with you about whatever they want, especially in a relaxed, informal setting, is really appreciated by many of us.

Wayne, I can say, I’m really happy with the job.



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